For quite some time now, creative writing in Tamil has been on the high with a vigour and a vibrancy not seen before. The language of Tamil fiction was never more charming; the prose nevermore lilting and rich in vocabulary, or more down-to-earth, assertive and hauntingly aggressive. It is the language of the people, reflected in all its earthy simplicity and glory that brings tears to your eyes.
When I was told to review Ambai’s short stories I refused. Reviewing is tough for me for I am no verbally confident academic with one or more well-earned degrees and the terminology of criticism properly internalized. So all that I can do is to say whether I liked a book or not; and if I did so, to talk about it with a passion to any willing listener.
The nineties of the last century saw a second wind of creativity in Tamil writing, particularly fiction. Largely unnoticed by the readers of the pulp magazines that sold in thousands, a new crop of writers were exploring new themes and new areas of experience in little magazines and original work published as books.
“It took me more than ten years to give shape to this work of fiction ….. The nearest form to this narration (which is somewhat new to Tamil letters) is the novel. It has a hero, a scene of action (United States), a period (1973-74)” says Ashokamitran (AM from now on) in his brief introduction to the Tamil original of this work. Ostensibly a travelogue of his some seven months stay at the University of Iowa as a writer in residence that the US government had sponsored as part of its strategy to win Third World intellectual support for itself in the Cold War days, it defies classification as a genre.
Aazhi Soozh Ulagu, the title of the novel under review, is an exquisite phrase from Kamban’s Ramyanam (circa 12th century CE), which occurs in Kaikeyi’s exhortation to Lord Ram before he is sent away into exile for fourteen years. ‘All of this ocean-ringed earth is Bharathan’s to rule,’ declares Kaikeyi, while Ram must travel into the jungle to undertake ‘intolerably arduous’ penance, live austerely and bathe in the waters off hallowed pilgrimage centres, before returning home in two times seven years.
In the recent past there is an appreciable rise in the number of books published in Tamil on national and global issues. That such books have a good market augurs well for the future of Tamil. And who are the readers for these books? The last few decades of the last century found a new class of readership, that was recently empowered by education but still, that lacked an adequate knowledge of English, the language of intellectual dialogue internationally. And yet, these new readers were thirsting for knowledge and wanted to know all that was happening around them near and far. Their expectations were not belied and books dealing with a variety of issues started appearing.
Reading this book was as pleasurable as having a cup of that delicious brewed coffee that became a cultural signifier of the Tamil way of life in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. To those who associate scholarship with dullness, I would strongly recommend Chalapathy’s book since it is consistently both scholarly and lively.
Ghost Stories is a book which tells stories with a touch of mystery and suspense. ‘The Lady of the House’ is about a young ayah, called Malina, who comes to work in the house of Ginnima. Ginnima is an old lady, who has been trapped in her bed for 55 years, because she is overweight. When she first meets the old lady, something about Ginnima’s eyes scares Malina, because she feels like she is being trapped.This is a scary story.
Good Heavens is the name of the book, or the feelings of shock that came over me as I finished it? Do Indian authors really think that 10-12 year old read stories about elephants named ‘Elphie’ or wasn’t that meant for five year olds? Are Indian children really that juvenile? My advice, please write books that are really for the pre-teens and teens of our country and not for the ‘kids’.
What is it that sets apart a children’s book from a book for adults? Should there even be such distinctions? After all, the best children’s books also appeal to adults. But the converse, unfortunately, is not true. There are many books which adults like, that a child would not enjoy reading. And anyway, how does one decide what makes a good children’s book? The ones that teach children valuable lessons?
It’s easy to review a field guide: does it cover all of the 1200-or-so species in India? Does it have good illustrations? Are the differences between Blyth’s and Richard’s Pipits accurately represented? What are the descriptions like? Are the latest taxonomic changes incorporated? That there are fewer than half a dozen comprehensive field guides to the region doesn’t hurt either. They’re familiar territory.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, children grew up on books about fairies, and smiling mushrooms, detective dogs and five children, faraway lands and enchanted forests. Today’s children are privy to battles larger than themselves, larger than life. Between prophesied heroes and worlds torn apart by evil—children learn the larger binary of life early in life.
The word “childhood’ brings many delight- ful memories to our minds. We were carefree and happy…We were not overburdened in any way….Yes, those were the days of innocence. Yet Anees Jung shatters the myth in Lost Spring Stories of Stolen Childhood. Child labour stares in the face as Jung ruthlessly describes the experiences of the young ones.
After reading Vandana Singh’s Younguncle Comes to Town, I remember talking to a friend, and our saying that the book was almost as funny and whimsical as Lila Majumdar’s children’s writing—and there is no greater compliment that we could bestow. That is an index of Majumdar’s secure place in the Top of the Pops of Indian children’s writing.
We are forever surrounded by masks. The kathakali dancer in performance; the goalkeeper in hockey; the rescue worker at a collapsed building site; the traffic policeman at a busy, polluted intersection; the football fan with painted face; the robber at a bank heist; the surgeon at work; and even a heavily made-up Page 3 socialite—they all use masks of one kind or another. Some of these masks are functional and are meant to protect the wearer from hazards.
Mamang Dai’s book is a fascinatingly nuanced account of the life of the Adi tribe of Aruanchal Pradesh. Here is an upland valley, an immensely varied and difficult terrain, and wedged in by the deep gorges and dense forests. The Adis have lived there for ages nurturing their long history and unique ways of life.
Originally slated as a publication for and by teachers within Krishnamurti schools, this journal has far wider relevance. The issues covered, ranging from contemporary crises in consciousness and the role of education, to detailed thoughts on curricula, content and subject teaching, are significant for teacher-educators, administrators, parents and indeed anybody with a serious interest in the educational challenges of our times.
Micro studies of schooling and life at school were literally non- existent in India till Meenakshi Thapan’s first edition of the book was published in 1991. The book has brought into limelight the sociological forays into the micro-interpretive approach towards education and schooling in the Indian context.
The volume under review examines the interlinkages between education and culture in Northeast India using a socio-historical and cultural lens. The author argues that the erstwhile province of undivided Assam’s trajectory of development of education was quite different from the rest of India owing to the delayed growth of western and higher education in Assam.